12 Ways to Improve Your Newsletter's Format

Jun 24 21:00 2003 Stephen Bucaro Print This Article

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12 Ways to Improve Your Newsletter's Format

By Stephen Bucaro

Has your newsletter kept the same format for over a year?
Is your newsletter's format based on a currently available
template? If so, you may be losing subscribers and money.
Over the last year, several major changes have occurred on
the Internet that may have made your newsletter's format
obsolete.

One change is the pervasiveness of spam and the wide
implementation of email filters to deal with spam. Another
change is the increased sophistication and lack of patience
exhibited by Internet users. Bring your newsletter up to
date by making the 12 changes described below.

1. DO NOT use a creative email subject line.

Do not use a cute or creative phrase for your newsletter's
email subject line. This will cause the recipients email
filter to send your newsletter to the spam bucket. The
subject line should contain only the name of your
newsletter. To avoid getting filtered, make sure the
subject line contains the word "newsletter".

2. DO NOT personalize your newsletter.

Everybody knows their name was inserted by an automated
application and that you don't really have a clue as to
what their name is. Your readers will view you as insincere
and dishonest. Don't use insincere and dishonest automated
personalization. You are tricking no one.

3. DO NOT put a "this is not spam" message at the top of
your newsletter.

Unless your newsletter can be mistaken as spam, do not
put a message near the top of your newsletter stating
something similar to "by subscription only ..." or "you
subscribed ..." or "to unsubscribe...". If your newsletter
can be mistaken as spam, see the following tip.

4. DO NOT use a "top sponsor" ad.

Although advertisers pay more for the top sponsor ad
position, accepting them causes you to lose money overall.
This is because the first thing your subscribers see when
they open your newsletter is advertising. You lose
subscribers. Don't waste your subscribers time, get to the
meat first - your feature article.

5. DO NOT use a "Contents" section.

Do not put "Contents" near the top, or anywhere in your
newsletter. Although almost all newsletters have a contents
section, there are three reasons why you don't want it.

1. You are publishing a newsletter to make money. You make
money through advertising in your newsletter. You want
your readers to peruse the entire newsletter, including
the advertising. If your reader sees nothing of interest
in the contents they just delete your newsletter without
reading any part of it.

2. It wastes the readers time. As an example, next time
you watch TV news, notice how they waste your time
"telling you what they are going to tell you". Instead of
wasting so much time telling you what they are going to
tell you, why don't they just tell you?

By enticing you with coming stories, they hope to prevent
you from flipping to another channel when they go to
commercials. That doesn't work with me. As soon as they
start telling me what they are going to tell me, I flip
to another channel. Don't waste your readers time by
telling them what you are going to tell them, just get to
it!

3. The contents section lists only the titles of the
articles. Unfortunately, nowadays writers are too busy
thinking up cutesy titles that don't give you a clue as to
what the article is about. Therefore, reading the contents
is a waste of time.

6. DO NOT put a message welcoming new subscribers.

Assuming that your newsletter has a low turnover rate, the
vast majority of your readers will be old subscribers. You
force old subscribers to read the same "welcome new
subscribers" message over and over again in every issue.

The fact is that even new subscribers are not interested
in your "welcome new subscribers" message. New subscribers
are trying to determine if your newsletter will provide
them with useful information, or if they should
un-subscribe immediately. Judging by a "welcome new
subscribers" message, your newsletter appears to waste
their time.

7. DO NOT bore readers with your personal life.

As your subscriber opens your newsletter, they are thinking
"what's in it for me". They couldn't care less that you
are going on vacation, that your child did something cute
yesterday, or that you have a new puppy. They only care
about what's in your newsletter that is useful to them.
Don't waste your readers time with trivia about your
personal life.

8. DO NOT leave a lot of white space.

Someone wrote that text is easier to read if you leave a
lot of white space. Was that idea based on a scientific
survey, or was it one persons opinion? I suspect it was
the latter. Leave one blank line between paragraphs. Never
leave more than one line blank anywhere in your newsletter.

White space is equivalent to "dead air" time on radio or
TV. Leaving a lot of white space in your newsletter just
forces your reader to scroll more. Don't waste your readers
time.

9. DO NOT apologize for a missed schedule.

Sending your newsletter on a regular schedule is one
indication of professionalism. But it may surprise you to
know that if you miss a publication date - nobody will
notice. Contrary to your delusions, not all of your readers
are sitting on the edge of their chairs waiting for your
newsletter to arrive in their email box. Your newsletter
is just not that good.

If you are a day or two, or even a week late sending out
your newsletter, I promise you, nobody will care. And the
last thing you need to do is post a message in your
newsletter pointing out your lapse in professionalism and
making excuses.

10. DO take advantage of viral marketing.

A virus is an organism that spreads itself around. Your
newsletter should be like a virus. Ask your readers to
forward your newsletter to their friends. Make sure your
newsletter has a subscribe link so that anyone that comes
into contact with it can easily subscribe. Give reprint
rights to the articles, as long as they include your
resource box.

11. DO thank your readers for their support.

There are hundreds of thousands of free newsletters. This
reader chose to give your newsletter the value of their
time. An honest thank you is never a waste of the readers
time.

12. DO tell subscribers why they should not unsubscribe.

You should always place an unsubscribe link at the bottom
of your newsletter. Just above the unsubscribe link, you
should put reasons why the reader should NOT click on the
unsubscribe link.

Remind the reader of what they get from your newsletter.
Entice the reader to stay by mentioning what will be in
the next issue. Display the number of subscribers. If that
many subscribers think the newsletter is of value, maybe
unsubscribing would be a mistake.

Major changes that have occurred on the Internet over the
last year may have made your newsletter's format obsolete.
By making the 12 changes described above your newsletter
will be better able to deal with spam filters and with
todays demanding and impatient Internet users.
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Stephen Bucaro
Stephen Bucaro

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